Post that night of narrowly lost glory in Paris, Arsenal have been pretty much about Arsene Wenger and the angry fans.
While some of them blamed the new stadium for the trophy drought, maintaining that the Arsenal Stadium at Highbury was ‘good enough’, many others have waved torches and pikes at Arsene Wenger for being frugal in the market and for being a puppet of the hierarchy that operates in the confines of the big tub.
Meanwhile, the AKB (Arsene Knows Best) brigade is busy applying filters to photos of glory days past to seemingly remind the other two factions that Arsene the Messiah is still around.
The summer of 2013/14 that is now, has been slightly different by usual Arsenal standards, but not entirely unconventional. The big signings are yet to come, the fans are irate, Piers Morgan is at his usual worst and the gaffer and Ivan Gazidis are shooting their transfer window darts all over the bar.
To the analysis board now.
Arsenal took a journey halfway across the known world on a money-spinning tour to Asia. With Vietnam and Thailand being the new destinations this season, it is evident that the club is establishing the brand all over and capitalizing on it wisely.
The Asia Tour 2013 was marked with a number of positives on the pitch as well, as Arsenal opened their off-season with two margin victories over an Indonesia Dream Team and the Vietnamese national team, scoring 14 goals in the process, while conceding only one.
Arsenal’s real test in the tour was their trip to Japan where they took on Asian giants, Urawa Red Giants, and Arsene Wenger’s former charges, Nagoya Grampus Eight.
After convincing victories in the land of the rising sun, it was evident that Arsenal’s new youth products had made a transition and will find some chances in the first XI this year.
Most notable was the rise of Gedion Zelalem. The feisty German U16 player is someone who has been likened to George Weah and more close to home, Cesc Fabregas. Naturally, he has been dubbed as the new ‘Zesc’ by the Gunners’ faithful. More about him later.
The remainder of the crop, Serge Gnabry, Thomas Eisfeld, Chuba Akpom and Chuks Aneke also look set to make a jump to the bench this season. If not in league games, some of them are sure to feature in the Capital One Cup games and the FA Cup for sure.
While the talent pool at the Arsenal Academy is vast, it remains to be seen as to who make the cut and live up to the hype they have created initially.
Fast forward to Europe now and the Arsenal fans had the Emirates Cup returning this season. Playing against seasoned opposition, Arsenal failed to provide any hope to the home fans as they were held to draw by Rafa Benitez’s Napoli and a Galatasaray led from the front by Didier Drogba.
While a few days later, they trumped Manuel Pellegrini’s Manchester City with a 3-1 scoreline, the failure to win the Emirates Cup is a major punch in Arsenal’s preparations for the main season.
Napoli have been bulking heavily this season under Benitez and Aurelio De Laurentiis. But this is not the case in Naples alone, as a number of top clubs in Europe have been restructuring themselves heavily. In the meanwhile, Arsenal look threadbare and will cave in after a few big hits from the opponents.